It wasn’t supposed to be like this
Time heals all wounds…. If someone asked me what one of my top ten pet peeves was, this would be at least in the top three. Finding recovery along with age and some dark times has taught me that our society has a really unhealthy relationship with death and grief. The last eight years have been a messy and tumultuous journey, full of moments where I wasn’t sure if I would make it out onto the other side. On the other hand, those dark times have also provided me with some seriously beautiful growth. Next week will be eight years since I lost my brother and my best friend.
Death has been a pretty consistent part of my life because when the majority of the people you know struggle with substance use too, the funerals are inevitable. I remember someone telling me several years ago when I left rehab for the last time that I should have two dresses, one for weddings and one for funerals. It was pretty solid life advice.
Growing up I remember funerals, some humans, and some pets. My first clue that time does not heal all wounds, almost thirty years later and I still vividly remember the day we had to put down our german shepherd Milah when I was in grade school. I was six when I lost my grandfather and I miss him more now than I did when I was a kid. I have never been good at expressing how I feel, most days I can barely form a coherent sentence on the thoughts that are running through my brain. People talk about the stages of grief as if they are defined with rules and a tour guide. To be honest I’ve spent the last couple of years wading through anger and trying to come out on the other side in one piece.
I met Will and Rob when I was thirteen and up to that point, my teenage years hadn’t been kind to me. I struggled with my mental health and self-harm. So many trips in and out of facilities and a never-ending parade of therapists, psychiatrists, and preachers. Like me, they were the misfits, the odd-birds, never quite fitting in or belonging. I have an older brother but we’re several years apart and by the time I hit high school, he was gone and living his own life. Will and Rob over the years became my protectors, my best friends, and my brothers, always there when my heart got broken or life became too heavy. Over the years no matter what life threw our way, we always found our way back to each other. Toxic relationships, blowout-fights, trips to rehab, it didn’t matter what happened, we always had each other. In my mind, we would always, always have each other. We would one day get our lives together, maybe get married and of course be at each other’s weddings. Will and Rob would joke all the time that I would be the best man at both of their weddings because I was not a “girl” girl. Life would continue on and there would be children and buying of houses and family vacations, so on and so on until one day we were old and grey and living in the same nursing home.
It may seem like silly childhood fantasies to some, but for me, it was all I wanted. Life never quite turns out the way you want it to. You go to sleep never imagining that everything was about to change. Saturday morning on February 9th, 2013 I got the call. “Jordan, Will’s gone. They don’t know what happened, he’s dead”. I honestly don’t know what happened or what I did over the next couple of days, I ran on autopilot. All I was conscious of was that every single fiber of my body was screaming to get high but the one logical part of my brain was fighting back and saying no. That Monday morning a friend was going into Philadelphia and promised to bring me home a cheesesteak if I stayed and didn’t get high. For context, I lived my whole life outside of Philadelphia and I now live in a region that puts sauce on their cheesesteaks (blame the new yorkers). Monday night came and I didn’t get high and I got my cheesesteak.
If I had a nickel for every time someone told me that time heals all wounds, I’d be retiring this year. I get it, people mean well and death makes people uncomfortable. I am not exactly the friend that you want to run to when you’re crying, it brings out every ounce of my awkwardness but I will supply you with food. Time does not heal because grief never ends. And that is the conversation we need to have about grief. I beg everyone to understand that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. You think that the beginning will be the worst when the wounds are raw. But really the beginning was the easiest because I didn’t feel anything. I’m not saying that is the healthiest way to cope but that’s how I did it.
It was year six when the dam broke and everything came pouring out. I sat on the side of the road in my car and screamed until my throat was raw, that was when the tears finally came and I cried until there was a puddle in my lap. Body heaving sobs that left me physically and mentally drained. Since then there has been a lot of anger. Some days I feel consumed with anger because it’s not fair. This isn’t how it was supposed to go. He is supposed to be here for all those life milestones. I’m a junior in college and he won’t be at my graduation. He has never met my partner and wasn’t there to give him the “talk”, and he won’t be there to dance with me at my wedding. The anger comes when I am reminded of everything he has missed and all he will miss. When I am having a really bad day and I feel like it’s me against the world, I ache to hear his voice. There are days when the anger is so deep it physically hurts and I don’t know if I am going to get to the other side of it.
Will was a once in a lifetime friendship. He understood me and he saw me. He loved me and I loved him, I always will. There is one thing I have learned through all of this. I am grateful for having had him for the thirteen years that I did. If I had a choice between never feeling the pain of loss again or having never had him, I will choose the pain every time. I am grateful for life intervening on a random Saturday when I was thirteen. I miss you immensely Tigger.